"I couldn’t help but blame myself..."
Sean Smith (SS) and Lee Smith (LS)
SS: I remember taking the gun out. My sister was off to the side of the room. I distinctly remember her saying, “You should put it back,” and she ran across just as my finger hit the trigger. It went off and, in a flash, she was down. My ears were ringing and I remember picking her up and sitting her in my lap. I had my hand over the wound and I grabbed the phone and I was calling 911, trying to talk to the operator.
<< 911 call >>
Young Sean: I didn’t know my dad’s gun was loaded and I shot her.
SS: I remember trying to do CPR on her but there was no response to it.
<< 911 call >>
Young Sean: …she’s dead.
911 operator: She’s dead?
Young Sean: Yes. Please get my mom and dad. Oh my God…
SS: Once the cop got there I remember him bringing me into the living room and sitting me down and, you know, I was just trying to wrap my 10-year-old mind around what had happened. That, you know, in an instant my sister wasn’t there anymore.
What do you remember about that day that Erin died?
LS: It was just a blur to be honest with you. You know, when something happens, like when a crime happens, you’re mad at this person but we had nobody to get mad at, because how can you get mad at a 10-year-old little boy?
Do you remember any conversations you had with your dad at that time?
SS: I just remember him saying, “It’s not your fault.” But I couldn’t help but blame myself at that point, you know, I didn’t even think of where he might have felt some guilt as well. I mean, any little mention or memory of Erin would break me down and, you know, I’d be a crying mess.
LS: Even though you fought like brothers and sisters, whenever there was a picture opportunity, you always put your arm around her like you were protecting her.
SS: Yeah. We were only a year apart, and we definitely had that sibling love.
LS: You know, I had the hardest time when people asked me how many children I have. They go, “Oh, what’s their ages?” And I say, “41, 36 and eternally 8.”
SS: How did you see this change me?
LS: When you were younger, it seemed to me that you just pushed it aside, but as you got older it seemed to come more to the surface.
SS: Yeah. I dropped out of high school, got introduced to drugs, and cocaine was definitely a big factor in my drug use. But then my son, Dylan, was born and I didn’t want to go back to that life anymore. So my son pretty much saved my life.
If you could speak to Erin now, what would you want her to know?
LS: I’d love to be able to tell her that you were okay, but I’m worried that you’re not. I’m worried that this is going to haunt you forever.
SS: I would want to tell her I’m sorry. I regret every single thing that happened that day. And I wish one day that I’ll be good and it’d be nice to finally say that and, you know, and mean it.
LS: —and mean it. (laughs)
Frank Scott remembers his father, Wendell Scott, who in 2015 became the first African American inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
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